What a difference a day makes...well, three days really, as Dylan's Toronto set was vastly improved over the London show. Song selections aside, it seems the days of 'monster surprises' are behind us, the difference was all in the delivery...or, as they say on TV up here when hawking pizza (and that's all BOb's doing, isn't it?), the delivery was delicio!
The ACC is a cavernous, unforgiving bowl that holds 20,000, but the sound is superb. The pre-show music consists entirely of Johnny Cash.
Appropriate,for the headliner anyway.
The Foo Fighters open the show with the same set list we had in London, just a little tweak to the song order. Powerful stuff. Grohl is a rock legend simply for his proximity to the supernova that was Kurt Cobain. He deserves respect for his own immense talents that range from song-writing, playing multiple instruments (though we only had the acoustic guitar this evening) and his screamo-performance style of singing. Nothing to choose from when comparing the London and Toronto shows, both were consistently excellent and too short by half.
Which is to say that Dylan fears nothing. Least not challenges from anyone in the industry. The Foos were an "A List" opening act that made this leg of the tour a bargain. They drew a big crowd as they played their 1 hour opening set to 19,000 appreciative fans. Got themselves two standing ovations for their efforts.
Between London and Toronto there was plenty to choose from, in both quality and song selections. Both shows open with Maggie's Farm, which is a little unsettling. I do like the new 'arrangement', not drastically altered but different enough to make you take notice. I give the nod to the London performance, the vocals were sharper, he played more with 'dropping' the last word of the line into the music after an almost imperceptible pause. In Toronto, though his voice was strong, he seemed to rush the words. What was 'dime' in London, was 'daaaahhhhhhh' in Toronto. The same modified musical arrangement but you have to be wary of a song where the singer tells you: "they say 'sing while you slave!', I just get bored." It's not like you can honestly ask for a rebate an hour and a half later.
She Belongs to Me without the vocal stumbles. That's the way it oughta be. Letter perfect delivery and the band is just floating along that lazy river. The degree of disappointment felt over the botching of any one song over another is mostly linked to the stature of that song in your memory. I mean if he loses his place in the middle of Wiggle Wiggle it's hardly like that's a heartwrenching loss. Perhaps not the same as when he loses his place in a song with some majesty, like Visions, or Mississippi or ... She Belongs to Me. The stumble in the London version was like a balloon popping.
Lonesome Day Blues absolutely slays TDTD, almost by default. The Tweedles we got in London was interestingly fresh. Some new guitar lines by Denny almost give this song a reason to exist. Almost. LDB, on the other hand, needs no reason outside of it's excellence. This one didn't quite reach the exhuberant heights of the Rochester '04 version but it's always well treated. Musically the song is a little more sparse than it has been, it's not quite as fast as I remember it, but it's still time well wasted.
Positively 4th Street didn't have much competition in slot #4, being up against the anemic Girl of the North Country. A monster song not terribly botched.
It's Alright Ma, I'm only compeeeeting...with myself again. Toronto absolutely creams London in this cage match. Punchy, powerful version without being overly weighed down by the 'bass'y, thunder, sound blanket it's wrapped in.
Most Likely in London was the best I've heard it in years. Too bad it's facing a wonderful sounding, crystal clear, lifetime-debut-in-any-medium, When the Deal Goes Down. Add to the fact I really like this song, that I could make out over 75% of the lyrics and could tell the story the singer was trying to relate...well, then it's no contest.
A very good Not Dark Yet in London beats out a pared-down but always interesting Highway 61.
The debut of Rollin' and Tumblin' in London was the first song i've heard off the new album. Couldn't hardly make out more than 20% of the words, didn't like the ones I could make out. That won't be enough to carry it past a second strong outing for Masters of War. I spent a lot of years not really listening to this song, so for me it was really fresh. I'd say it deserves more respect than it gets but for a song written in 1962 and played regularly to loud cheers in 2006 I'd say it doesn't need my help.
The same two songs meet up in slot nine and this time the nod goes to the better performed Toronto version of Rollin' and Tumblin' over the more than adequate version of Masters we received in London. Tonight's Rollin', though no less offensive, is much clearer. The LDB sister-song.
London's Desolation Row, even with the unfortunate loss of tempo about 3/4 the way through, still kills DTTIA...again, by default. You can add Don't Think Twice, It's Alright to the growing list of old songs that are sounding much better with slightly modified deliveries. The upsinging, almost absent tonight, is most evident on this song, it's downfall.
Tangled Up In Blue sees the band all huddled together in a tight circle between Bob's piece of shit organ and the drums. Enjoyable version and while it never soars to heights it's attained before, it doesn't sink either. It gets the nod over a slim-line version of Hwy 61 we got in London.
From here on in it's head to head battles. All the Toronto versions were superior to the London versions. The two new songs for the sheer clarity. Nettie was cool. The three old songs for the energy of the performance.
Final score: London 3 Toronto 11